“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law…”
Looks like a new idea here, but it is really repetition. We are still talking about two main groups of people, who, when added together, equal the whole human race. The theme is considtent. All are sinful, and all deserve judgment.
First a group of people in the world who sin without law. The “law” here of course is the law of Moses. Most people in the world know nothing, and have known nothing of Moses’ law. The law was given to and prized by Israel. Later, Christians filled with God’s Spirit have that very law written on their hearts. But most do not know of it, and therefore disobey it unwittingly, and will be lost. We saw in chapter 1 that ignorance of the law is no excuse, as ignorance of a tiny bit of poison in a quart of water will not keep you from instant death when you drink it. He will further explain why Gentiles deserve eternal loss as well as Jews in verse 14 and 15. Right now we know, so far, that Gentiles who do not know and keep the law will perish.
Perish? Doesn’t that simply mean go out of existence? No, the word means to be fully destroyed. But doesn’t that mean that eventually you no longer exist? Think of the perishable foods in your refrigerator. If they stay there long enough, you grab them and pitch them into the garbage, for their further decay. They are worthless, castaways, but the picture is not perfect, because Jesus talked about a place where the worm dies not, showing us that destruction from the Lord is an eternal thing. Forever ruined. Forever useless. Forever in decay, but the worm that would normally feed on that corpse and then itself die, does not die, but keeps feeding on cells that keep being replenished. Even the damned will have resurrected bodies, bodies fit for showing the wrath of God forever. Horrible thoughts, but drawn right from the revelation of God, and needing our attention. No one gets to just lay down and rest forever if they have rejected the God of Heaven.
Gentiles, get saved!
“… and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law…”
So who is meant by that? Certainly, the Jews. There is no question that the Jewish people have had access to the Law of Moses for about 3,500 years. When they appear before the judgment bar they will be judged by that Law, unless they have accepted the judgment that was placed on Christ on their behalf. The words of Moses are clear. The prophets told them that the soul that sins shall die. Unforgiven sin means no entrance into the Holy Place of God. And sins cannot be forgiven except through the Blood of the spotless Lamb of God. Jews that are not eventually Jews for Jesus are damned.
So there it is again. All Gentiles plus all Jews equals all people and all people have sinned and all people are therefore under the curse of God. Paul is making a solid case here.
A question arises in some hearts. Macarthur goes there a while, and I will follow for a while. Will Jews and Gentiles be punished alike in hell? When Jesus talked in Luke 12:47-48 about slaves who knew their master’s will vs slaves who did not know that will and were therefore punished less, was he talking about Jew vs Gentile? The Gentiles after all did not know the Master’s will. I think it is a dangerous road to travel, because Paul is just about to explain here that Gentiles really did know some things. We covered a little of this in chapter 1.
Yet Jesus’ words do need to be applied somewhere. In that same passage in Luke we read of servants who are cut in two and thrown out with unbelievers. Then the tone is lessened a little when talking about some bad servants who get punished but not thrown out. I would not be surprised to find that this flogging of servants who turned out to be lazy and indifferent, applies to us. Saved people who left their first love for a while, who got caught up in worldly pursuits, but who were saved, as Paul says, as through fire.
Something to ponder as you study on your own. Luke 12: 42-48.
Now at the following verse in the KJV and the NKJV, and at verse 14 in the NIV, you’ll see a parenthesis. And you’ll see its brother down at the end of verse 15. No, that doesn’t mean that these words were not in the original. It means that in the mind of the translators Paul is inserting a thought inside of a thought. I believe KJV people got it right there. If you read verse 12 and then skip immediately to verse 16 and keep reading, you’ll see a flow of thought that makes sense.
Please understand that punctuation marks of any kind are not inspired by the Spirit. They are placed there by translators who believe they have caught the flow of the communication. Sometimes they miss it. In this case I think they got it right.
In fact, if you want to get real technical, and I’m sure you do not, there really is a thought within a thought in verses 13-15 too. Let’s examine the thoughts.
The original thought: (v. 12, 16) Everyone will be judged by their deeds on judgment day.
The 2nd thought within this original: (v. 13.) Hearing is not enough. You must do.
The 3rd thought inside of that one: (v. 14-15). For example, look at the Gentiles.)
That’s not me, that’s Paul. Logical to the max. Leave nothing out. Take no prisoners. Nail that truth down in every way possible.
We’ll skip the parenthetical statement now and go to verse 16.
First, let’s re-read verse 12. “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law,
“… in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Now that verse is packed with important information. I believe it is a restating of verse 5 that talks about “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Here Paul goes deeper. There he goes on to talk about deeds. Here God speaks of the motivations that caused those deeds.
Remember? Moses said, “No killing!” Jesus said, stop the hatred and the anger within, and the killing will stop by itself. Why do we sin? Because deep inside we are sinners. Why do we manifest these awful symptoms? Because deep inside we have a disease. Why is mankind in turmoil with worse headlines on the news every day? Because deep inside mankind, in its secret thoughts and ideas, is corrupt, depraved. God will one day judge all those secrets.
By Jesus Christ? I showed you in another place how Christ will come to judge the nations. That’s in Revelation. But Peter makes it clear in talking to Cornelius, Acts 10, that it is Jesus “who was ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” God will judge the world. But He’s going to do it by Jesus at His coming. Paul in speaking to the men of Mars Hill, Acts 17, even more clear: “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained…”
But what of this other phrase, “according to my Gospel.” How is the “Good News” connected to this awful coming judgment from Heaven?
Whose Gospel is this, to begin with? Did Paul have his own account of the life of Jesus, the “Gospel of Paul”? No, Paul’s Gospel was the same as the others. Paul was saying that Jesus had committed Him to publish the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus resurrection. 2 Timothy 4:8 mentions this same phrase, “Remember that Jesus Christ… was raised from the dead according to my Gospel.” He was not the author of a new Gospel, just a publisher of the original Gospel. Nothing he ever says contradicts anything said in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. His Gospel was the Gospel of Christ.
So is this Gospel to be the basis for judgment? No. Paul has just told us, though we skipped those verses for a moment, that the Gentiles have not the Law, and we know most of them do not have the Gospel either, yet they will be judged regardless on another basis, which we will discuss.
Commentators stew over this phrase. Macarthur does not comment on it at all. It’s not as easy as it seems. The best we can come up with, I think, is the fact that the judgment of the world is connected with the resurrection of the dead. I did not give you the full quote in Acts 17:31. Yes, God has appointed a day of judgment, and a person to judge, namely Jesus. He goes on to say, “[God] has given assurance of this [fact of the coming judgment by Jesus] to all, by raising Him from the dead.”
There is Paul’s Gospel, and it must be ours too. God calls us all to repent, to believe in Jesus. God raised this Jesus from the dead, and he is going to come to the earth one day and rid the world of evil. Sin will be dealt with. Injustice will become justice. The secrets of men will be exposed and condemned. A new world with new rules and new ways, God’s ways. His Kingdom will have come, as we prayed all these centuries, and His will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
That’s good news. No, the good news is not the basis of the judgment, but the judgment, strangely enough, is a part of the good news. The finished work of Christ anticipates a finished end to sin. Even so come, Lord Jesus.
Now, some unfinished business. Back to verses 13-15.